The rather uninspired name of this jellyfish galaxy, ESO 137-001, belies this breathtaking image, created by composite data from several telescopes.
The optical light is from Hubble, the orange regions – cold gas/molecular hydrogen (-250°C) – from ALMA and the purple warm gas from the Very Large Telescope.
It’s the first detailed map of the molecular hydrogen distribution in jellyfish galaxies and the different parts of the tail.
ESO 137-001, or the Norma cluster galaxy, is one of the closest jellyfish galaxies to us, which are so named because of the tentacles of gas and young stars that trail behind them.
Normally, stars are created within galaxies, and it’s unclear how stars appear in the tail of jellyfish galaxies. This image sheds light on the mystery by revealing the cold molecular hydrogen in the tail, suggesting that stars are actually formed there.